This article has been updated to remove sections for which evidence was inconclusive.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) hearings to determine the fate of net metering have begun. Just prior to the hearings, Arizona Public Service (APS) withdrew its rate increase case, leading to speculation about how this would impact the CPUC hearings.
During the first week of the hearings, the Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA)’s Tim Drew was questioned about his contact with a former analyst with the Residential Utility Consumer Office (RUCO), which proposed a a capacity charge in Arizona of up to $3/kW. APS subsequently applied to increase that amount. The ORA proposal in California represents a further increase, coming in at 1400 times higher than the APS proposal.
Arizona Investigations Continue
Last month, APS withdrew its proposal for a substantial net metering increase in Arizona due in large part to the public outcry.
During the APS rate case, allegations were made against three of the commissioners on the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) for accepting dark money to get elected. One of them, Bob Stump, was also accused of bias on the basis of public statements that net metering is a subsidy.
How will ORA Proposal Impact the Hearings?
One question that remains is how ORA went from promoting the benefits of net metering in 2012 (when it was known as the DRA) to submitting a proposal that will ultimately result in its demise.
However, the ORA proposal is not the only one the CPUC is considering. The utilities have also submitted their own proposals which would be damaging to net metering and the solar industry.
PG&E’s proposal would also decimate the net metering program. It would impose discriminatory fees on solar customers, as their own analysis demonstrates. When Arizona’s Salt River Project utility implemented a similar fee, applications for new projects plunged 95 percent within one month.
Widespread Public Support for Solar
CALSEIA has just completed a statewide poll of registered voters’ opinions of solar policies. The poll showed that a whopping 90 percent of Californians are in favor of rooftop solar, and 88 percent feel that more should be done to encourage it. Furthermore, 80 percent expressed disapproval of the utility proposals against net metering.
The governor and the legislature also support solar. Recently passed legislation requires utilities to produce half of their energy from renewable sources by 2030.
For their part, solar advocates are keeping the spotlight on the benefits of solar.
For the People’s Climate Movement National Day of Action, over 250 people turned out to rally at PG&E headquarters in San Francisco. They were there to show that there’s broad support for net metering — and for rooftop solar.
While PG&E held its own counter-rally alongside, the utility’s displays of support for solar were largely ignored in favor of the main event.
The rally emphasized the importance of stopping utilities from putting profits before people and planet — and tied that effort into the larger climate movement.
While it is clear that the APS case is having an impact on the hearings, it is not as clear whether that impact will benefit ORA or keep net metering alive.
The hearings are only in their second week. Keep checking back for the latest updates.